The Men in Red – 11 February 2020

Today we went to the tower. Luckily we came back again.

Walk to the station. Train to Wimbledon (no Wombles again!). Underground to Earls Court. Change train for Tower Hill, and we’re there. Tower of London awaits.

Walked to the ticket office and got our tickets, concessions of course. Had our bags searched and joined the crowd for the first of many interesting and really entertaining bloodthirsty stories of the tower’s chequered history told by the Yeoman Warder in his black and red uniform (Don’t dare call it a costume!). Beheadings, stranglings, hangings and interments, they were all laid out in their gory glory. It was great fun. The only problem was the wind. It stole away any warmth in the sun and nearly blew away our Yeoman Warder’s hat. Poor bloke must have been chilled to the bone having to stand there and give his talks.

After our 45 minute tour we went in search of some coffee and possibly some soup to warm us. It was tomato and basil soup and it was very welcome. Next Scamp wanted to see the Crown Jewels. Now I’m not entirely convinced that what we saw were the actual Crown Jewels, but they were certainly impressive. As well as the Crowns, lots of them, Sceptres another bucket load and a cardboard box of Orbs, there were platters, plates, punch bowls (one big enough to use as a bath) and assorted cutlery and tableware. All behind glass and looking splendid, but how would I a non-expert be able to tell if they were real or fake? I reckon the real stuff is in a vault somewhere guarded by a dozen big Alsatians and a battalion of the SAS. The vault itself is on an island with a moat infested with crocodiles and the Loch Ness Monster’s wee brother. That’s where I’d put the Crown Jewels, not in a glass box for every Tom, Dick and Harry to gawp at. They weren’t even in the Tower itself. They were in a building across the road. The Tower is used to display all the guns, swords and assorted weaponry from down the ages. Interesting, but pointless these days. (Note: Some of the swords were definitely NOT pointless. They had very real points.). It was the tower that provided the PoD.

When we’d had our fill of riches and weapons and been told all the blood-thirsty stories, we took the trains back to Hazy’s and dinner. It was good to be somewhere warm after all that freezing wind.

Today’s prompt was ‘Burn’. My take on it was burning the candle at both ends. We all do it. We all think we’re getting away with it, but sooner or later, that plan of action will catch up with us.

Mr Simon Roe – 10 February 2020

A man who doesn’t understand spoken English.

Took the bus into Epsom today. I must say that England, or at least Greater London does a great job at making public transport easy to access and cheap too. Admittedly, ours is even cheaper thanks to our Pensioners Ticket, but down in London they’ve had Oyster cards for years and we’re only getting them now. They’ve had pay by debit card for almost as long and we in Scotland have only had them since last year. It’s a connected travel system that just works.

So we reached a cold and dismal Epsom, but most places are cold and dismal on a Monday in February, even without the gales and the driving rain. We went for a coffee first as is our usual procedure and then we went to Waitrose to get the ingredients for tonight’s dinner. We got most of the stuff we needed, but couldn’t see any bacon. I stopped a ‘Partner’ wearing a suit, so not just a shelf filler and asked where I could find bacon. He pointed over to a stand and said “That’s the vegan area there.” No, I said, “Bacon”. Again he pointed and said that “That’s the vegan shelves.” I was beginning to think I was in the Burniston lift sketch. You must have seen it. “No,” I said, “B A C O N!” That’s when the sketch changed from Burniston to Monty Python. “You asked for Vegan. Bacon’s at the end of the line” he said. Oh, oh. Please don’t tell me what I said. Please don’t treat me like an idiot. I got as far as “Now listen ..” when he starts shouting “Don’t point your finger at me”. It’s a finger for heaven’s sake. It wasn’t loaded and anyway, the safety was on. At this point Scamp entered the argument and tried to calm things down with “He said Bacon, you weren’t listening.” I’ve not written the email to his manager yet. Mr Simon Roe, you may think you’ve had a bad Monday morning, but worse is yet to come!

It took me a while to calm down, but eventually I did. We paid for our ’messages’, had a walk down the main street and a spot of lunch in Nero, then waited for the next bus back to Hazel’s.  Epsom’s not my favourite place.  It’s really drab and dowdy.  I think it might be overshadowed by its famous racecourse.

Back home I took my bad temper out for a walk in the woods around the golf course at Chessington. There wasn’t much to see, but it was a pleasant enough walk in the windy woods. Still a bit windy here with occasional showers, but not nearly as bad as yesterday.  I got my PoD there.  It’s just a glove, but its title on Flickr is “They went that-away”.

SoD was a painting of canal boats at Auchinstarry.  I wasn’t all that pleased with it, partly because I was painting in artificial light and it’s always hard to judge colour in that lighting.  I think it’s a bit too orange, but it seems to be getting enough attention on FB, so who knows. The topic was Reflection.

Tomorrow we may go in to London again. This time we might get to the Tower and I’ll behave myself or else I’ll get kept in.

Out on the town – 30 January 2020

Today was the anniversary of the day we first met. A much more sensible anniversary than the day we married.

Simply put, if we hadn’t ever met, we wouldn’t ever have married, but if we’d met and never married, it would have made little difference to us. To other people it would have been important, but to us it would have simple have been a convenience.

We got the bus in to Glasgow today. Not the slow X3, but the much quicker X28 from Condorrat. True, we had to walk over to Condorrat, but it was worth it not to have the bus stop at every one of the 5,000 stops all the way to Glasgow. Well, it seemed like that anyway.

We went for coffee in Nero before we walked down through the town. I watched an older woman struggling with a smartphone until a young bloke helped her to dial her friend on it. After a couple of attempts she managed to complete the connection and asked the bloke the name of the coffee shop she was in. She then relayed this information to her friend who told her he/she would meet her outside the Concert Hall. Again she asked for help from the young bloke, but this time he couldn’t help as he didn’t come from Glasgow, so another couple provided directions (it was actually just next door). We take technology like smartphones for granted and for those of us who are adept at using it, we can find all the information we need at the touch of a button. For others it’s a bit of a trial. It’s easy to forget how bamboozling modern technology can be. I hope she found her friend.

We walked down Bucky Street and I grabbed today’s PoD outside the Apple shop. I wonder how much business SimplyFixIt gets from this sign? Walked further along Argyll Street an up past the old fruit market for lunch in Gandolfi Fish. Lunch was Smoked Haddock Goujons as starter for both of us followed by Oven Baked Cod with Pomme Anna and Kale for Scamp. For me it was Sea Bass and Prawn Risotto. Washed down with a bottle of Italian red. For once we had a pudding: Panna cotta with Strawberries and Basil for Scamp. All of it absolutely brilliant. Service too was done with a smile which always helps. Had a drink in the Gandolfi Bar next door, but it was a dull, cold and uninteresting place. We wouldn’t go back there, but Gandolfi Fish is on our list now.

Bus back to Condorrat and then walked home in a gathering gale with splashes of rain. It didn’t matter, because we’d had a great day.

Tomorrow we’re cooking for six!

On the bus today – 23 January 2020

Still sticking to the “up and out” ideal, (yes that was Ideal, not Idea!) just not driving today.

Walked to Condorrat to get the fast bus in to Glasgow. In the town we went for coffee first and then went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went looking for a cheap tartan skirt for the tartan ball. I went to look at a camera in Jessops. Found the camera, but the security cable on it was about 20cm long. How am I supposed to try out a camera that I can’t even get up to eye level? Gave up. Next one I wanted to look at had a similarly short steel cable and also the attaching clip was pointed straight at me. If I’d managed to get the camera to eye level, that clip would have caused me an injury. When an assistant asked me if she could help, I tried to explain the danger of the protruding clip. She then explained condescendingly that they need the security because “.. people do try to steal things you know …”. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the security cable, but the protruding clip that I was concerned about. She seemed to realise that a sale was not imminent and finished the conversation by asking if there was anything else she could help me with. I said “Don’t bother, I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” Jessops seems to be in trouble, financially, again. With staff like her, I can understand why.

Still fizzing, I met with Scamp further down the road. She hadn’t found a skirt. We tried one of the plethora of cheap ’Scottish’ shops that have invaded Glasgow and Edinburgh. Kilts made from cloth you could spit peas through, for £15. Nothing she would demean herself with there either. We agreed to split up again and meet up in Princes Square.

I was looking for a refillable reservoir for one of my Lamy pens, because ’28 Drawings Later’ is looming next Saturday, the 1st of February. I expected I would get one in The Pen Shop in Princes Square, but I might just pick one up in Cass Art. No, Cass Art failed me on that, none. Walked through to The Pen Shop and on the way got the PoD which is a statue by Shona Kinlock called “As Proud As” with reference to the peacock which stands behind the wee man. On to The Pen Shop. They didn’t have the adapter either. Neither did whatever Millers is called now, but they did have some black ink, so I got that at least. They suggested other places, but as Scamp was on the last stop on her Tartan Tour which was M&S and I was meeting her there and then going for lunch which I hoped would be Paesano, I decided I’d try Amazon instead. We met and it was Paesano who would be graced by our presence. I was delighted!

Just two of our usual pizzas, but because we were bussing, not driving, I was allowed a glass of house red!

Up the road to the bus station and grabbed one of the new route X25 buses. It’s a lot faster than the sluggish X3, but slower that the Stagecoach X something-or-other. Best of all, its new route takes it past the new shops, so as we needed bread we could get the bus to the shops today!

It was jolly exciting sitting in a bus that was driving down past St Mo’s and St Mo’s school, round the roundabout and stopping at the bus stop just at the new shops. You can tell we don’t get out much, can’t you?

That was all the excitement we could stand for one day. Oh by the way, Scamp did get a tartan(ish) skirt. Tomorrow we have no plans.

Today we went to Embra – 18 January 2020

It’s ages since we’ve been in Embra. Not since last year at least (Ha, ha).

Still sticking to the “Up and out before 11” mantra, we headed off for the 10.40am train from Croy. On the way we picked up the tickets for our London trip, so, a tick in two boxes. Fairly slow train, and in the same carriage as a foursome of what Scamp called “Apprentice Witches” who looked as if they were off on a Ladies Only weekend, lubricated with a bottle of cheap champagne. And why not, even ladies wot lunch are allowed a weekend off the leash occasionally.

Got off at Haymarket and were surprised with the number of polis in attendance, van loads of them. Hearts must be playing at home, I thought. I was right. Hearts were at home to Airdrie. We walked up and over to Nero on Lothian Road for our morning coffee. Suitably refreshed, we should have walked through the Farmers’ Market and over to the Grassmarket, but today was different. Instead, we walked down to Princes Street and then along its length to The Bridges. Walked over The Bridges and on to the Royal Mile. It was cold. Not bitterly cold like it sometimes is in Embra, but cold enough to require my wooly Buff, wooly had and a pair of gloves. At least it was bright as well as cold.  Took some foties on the Royal Mile and then we ducked down to the Grassmarket. This was really strange. We were going in exactly the opposite direction to what we usually go and the vistas of architecture we were seeing were totally different to those we usually see. “A change is as good as a rest”, they say and it was proving true. One thing didn’t change and that was lunch in Petit Paris in the Grassmarket. Truly French restaurant with a French menu and served by French blokes. Scamp had Crayfish in Garlic Butter and a main of Salmon Fillet with Thyme served with mash. I had Garlic and Pea soup and a main of Beef Bourguignon. Both meals were just as good as we expected them to be. I even risked the wrath of Nick the Chick with a glass or red wine.

To continue our ‘Wrong Way Round’ walk, we walked through the Farmers’ Market that was just starting to close for the day, and where I got today’s PoD of a bloke enjoying the view of the castle from the comfort of a deck chair. Then out past the Usher Hall and back to Haymarket for the train home. A much quieter train home, now that the Apprentice Witches were suitably sozzled and off making a noise elsewhere.

Not a bad day. Pity it was so cold, but the lovely meal in Petit Paris made up for the lack of warmth. PoD was indeed the bloke on the deck chair, but there are others on Flickr if you care to visit.

Tomorrow we believe there may be dancing at the Record Factory.

Earwigging – 9 January 2020

As soon as the sky cleared today we were off on our travels.

Today Scamp suggested we should go to The Smiddy for lunch and a chance for me to take some foties. I thought it was a good idea, but added a stop at Muirhead for some carnivore food. It was actually in the opposite direction, but would only take us half an hour at the worst. Stocked up on sausages, mince, burgers and chicken and then we were off along the M80 and M9 then the A84 to Blair Drummond and the destination for today. Two toasties, one each. Cup of coffee (me) and peppermint tea (Scamp) and an opportunity to earwig the conversation between two ‘auld guys’ talking about somebody digging the founds or ’foonds’ (foundations) for a house by hand. I say we were earwigging, but it was difficult to avoid one side of the conversation which was broadcast at full blast. It was when the auld guy started elaborating that he’d seen this man “… in the pishin’ rain wi’ an auld coat oan, digging’ away …”, that’s when I smiled. I could just picture this man digging the foundations of his house with rain dripping off his auld coat and running down his neck too no doubt. I felt like thanking them when they got up to leave. Just two auld guys.

We left soon after and I got four sausages made with haggis, streaky bacon, pork and whisky. They’re in the freezer now. I’m keeping them for the weekend because they sound interesting. Back in the car we headed towards Doune, but never reached it. I took a road we’d never been on before, the B8032 that took us by a twist, turny, up and down way to Callander. The land of the blue rinse brigade on a Sunday outing, but today was Thursday so we were safe.

Parked near the river, very near the river which was coming up to meet us. Scamp had noticed the sand bags stashed at the side of the entrance and it looked like they’d be needed soon. The riverside carpark is quite often flooded but today it wasn’t too bad by Callander standards. We went for a walk through the town which looked as if it was shut, but there were a few shops open. Lots and lots of charity shops, which is a mark of small towns in Scotland these days. Bought a few cakes to have when we got home. It was a bit cool today and I think we were both quite pleased to be back in the car. A pleasant enough drive home except the bright low sun was a pain and I had to resort to sunglasses. Sunglasses in January? Who ever heard of such a thing.

PoD is a picture of the gulls sailing down the river in the carpark at Callander with Ben Led in the background.

Tomorrow looks like the last of the dry(ish) days for a while, so if it’s fine and clear we’ll probably go out for a while.

Another year over – 31 December 2019

And a new one about to begin.

Scamp was a bit better this morning which was a relief. She’s so rarely ill and it takes a lot to floor her, but she said she felt better. Not really well enough to get up and make breakfast, but I’ve got a tally of the number of days she’s been shirking.

It looked cold outside and the temperature was still below zero, so we weren’t in any sort of rush to go out. I did eventually go and bring the car down from where I’d parked it last night and we replaced the de-humidifier which now weighed about 400g more than when we’d put it in. That’s 400ml of water its absorbed over about six months. Actually it’s more than that. We’ve already removed about 200ml by heating it up on a radiator. I think the bag contains salt and clay. The salt being hygroscopic draws in the moisture and the clay prevents it from going back out again. Still, it works well in the wee Nissan. Mine has AC and that pumps out dry air summer and winter, so that dries the windscreen, but what is it about Japanese cars that makes them so susceptible to condensation?

We still needed some stuff for dinner tonight, so we walked down to the shops. Glad we did, because the road was just a carpark. Cars, buses and lorries all getting in each other’s way. It was traffic chaos. We found out why when we went in to M&S Food. People everywhere, probably all the ones who were causing all the road chaos. All madly grabbing things, any things, because haven’t you heard? The shops are all shut tomorrow!! Now these shops weren’t even there a few months ago and nobody died of starvation. Still we have to stockpile just in case they decide to shut the shops for two days. We got enough to make dinner. We didn’t need any more.

Walked back home and had lunch then went out to St Mo’s to take the last photos of 2019, the last photos of this 365 and the last photos of the decade. It was a lovely day. Good light again and a wee bit of frost too, just to add some sparkle. PoD was a picture of a curved grass stem with a water bead caught in a leaf joint.

Came home to find that Scamp was feeling a lot better and was making cakes for tonight. I set to and made the stew to fill tomorrow’s steak pie. A couple of weeks ago I made the prototype, this is the real deal. After that I got two of the apps I use a lot on the Mac installed, but one, the main one, Lightroom is installed, but not registered yet. I’m hoping the new year will bring me a brainwave and I’ll get it done. If not, there are always other ways round things, if you know what I mean.

That’s about it. I think we’re ready to face 2020 now the place has been hoovered, the toilet has been cleaned, the bathroom has too. I think we’re ready.

All The Best to all my readers. I hope 2020 is good to you whoever and wherever you are.

Tomorrow? Probably a late start after a late night tonight. Drink will be taken, I’m sure (it already has been!).

Flying home – Going home – 27 December 2019

Today was one of those lost days.

All of us knew we were on a countdown. Even Vixen seemed to realise that all was not as well as it should be.

Jamie drove us all to a garden centre. I got some seeds, Scamp got a screen cleaner for her car and J&S got seeds of the planting variety and of the bird seeding variety too. We had coffee and cakes there, of course. That’s how garden centres manage to exist during the winter. It was good to see the Christmas decorations coming down to leave room for the spring plants, no doubt. Saw and interesting plant, the Paper Bush (edgeworthia chrysantha) and that became PoD. Also noticed a lot of dead fish lying around the fish pond. Various explanations were proposed, but my best guess was a heron.

Back home for lunch and to say our goodbyes to Sim and Vixen then it was the long drive to the airport. JIC doesn’t seem to mind the long drive and I used to enjoy them too. Not so much now, or maybe I’m just not so used to driving now that I’m not having to do a daily commute. When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, maybe I’ll do a bit more.

Grabbed a quick snack at the airport and soon were called to the gate and on to the plane. Pleasant flight up. It’s strange to be on the plane for just an hour. We’re so used to the three and four hour flights to warm places, not to mention the seven hour flights to Trinidad. Excitement at Glasgow when the plane was met by four police who huckled to slightly inebriated guys off for questioning and a bit of finger wagging. When we entered the terminal, there they were getting a severe dressing down. While we waited for Scamp’s luggage they reappeared swaggering in the door. Not in the least looking worried and proceeded to take some selfies with a couple of older women who apparently had spoken up for them to the police. We hadn’t heard any commotion on the flight, so either they had been carrying on at Stanstead or it was just a bit of over reaction. Well done to the ladies for standing up for them.

Drove home and had a wee glass of G&T to settle us down.

Tomorrow we may need to go for messages.

The Blessing – 21 December 2019

Yesterday I said that just to be out for a walk in the open air without any shops would be a blessing. Today we were blessed with open air and no shops.

Initially we drove to Stirling with the possibility of travelling onward through Callander to Lubnaig or east to a wee loch we’ve been to a few times but can’t remember the name of. We visited neither of these places today. Instead I pointed the Juke towards the compass direction with the most likelihood of some sun, back along the M9 intending to visit The Kelpies. Then Scamp suggested we go to Culross instead (Sorry Hazy), and that is where we ended up.

Culross actually ticked all the boxes:

  • A walk
  • Open air
  • No Shops

We walked along at the side of the now obsolete mineral railway line from Longannet power station to the manmade lagoons near Low Valleyfield. I was intending to take some shots of the boardwalk and new pier at Culross, but then five boys on bikes ruined my shot, or so I thought. They walked and one cycled along the boardwalk, from there on to the pier and finally on to the rocks. I don’t usually allow people in my landscape shots, using Lightroom to unceremoniously delete them. This time I used them. They made an interesting focal point with the sky and sea as a backdrop. That had the makings of a PoD.

We walked along towards what’s known as Preston Island although it’s now a headland. I presume it once was an island before the slag and cinders from the power station were dumped there to reclaim the land. By the time we got there the light was failing so we turned and headed back. I took a few more photos, but nothing as good as the boys on the rocks.

Drove home and before dinner I did a bit of digital cut ’n’ paste to get me the composition I wanted and was really quite pleased with the result.  The Five Stages of Man.

Dinner tonight was going to be a carry-out curry or Chinese, but eventually we settled on a staple: Fish Fingers and Egg with Chips and Spaghetti. And some people call us ’Foodies’!!

Tomorrow we have nothing planned, but if the weather’s good I’m hoping to get some more photos.

The end of an era – 16 December 2019

Tonight we said goodbye to salsa and a lot of friends. Maybe not for ever, but for the foreseeable future.

The day started me making a loaf at around 9am, just after making breakfast. Next, a valiant attempt to clear up the living room and fit six chairs round a four legged table. Not quite squaring the circle, but something like it. After that, and a fair bit of bad grace on my part, I settled down, apologised and waited until Gems had arrived for their Christmas party before heading off to Larkhall to get my new glasses which are remarkably like my old glasses but only cost me £30 for undisclosed reasons. Mumbled explanation was that it was because “I hadn’t had the old ones for long and I’d lost them, so there were simply replacements …” No, it didn’t make sense to me either. However I was happy to tap my card and pay the £30.

Drove home via The Fort (I think I should try to get a room there. It seems I’m there more often than I’m at home) the visit was also for undisclosed reasons. Grabbed a photo of the bronze deer that decorate the place, but I wasn’t sure they’d make it to the PoD and I was right. Back home, PoD went to Fairy Nuff in her rightful place on the Christmas tree.

After dinner I think we dragged our feet a bit, not really wanting to go out to the STUC building for the last time. It was one of Jamie Gal’s exuberant Party dance classes. He makes up the most interesting and at the same time chaotic games for these nights. Tonight’s games went from the usual dancing with glow sticks and grab the Christmas hat to Dancing with Crackers(?!) and Stick the Nose on Rudolph. A bit like pin the tail on the donkey, but more manic and with salsa moves buttonholed in.  Finally the big hand went to 6 and the little hand went halfway between 8 and 9 and we had to go and speak to the man who has become more than a teacher, and more than a friend for the past 12 years. He’s become an institution. We both think he was expecting our bombshell.

The class is moving to Record Factory in the new year because the STUC building is being demolished to make way for yet more student flats. The Record Factory is less than ideal as a venue and too awkward for us to travel to every week. Jamie is becoming more sought after by universities throughout the country and beyond, which means he’ll be teaching salsa less and less. Although we will both miss his manic humour and teaching style, we have possibly found a new ballroom class in Cumbersheugh and that will be a boon on cold snowy nights. I think this is what you could call a Perfect Storm. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow to join the merry throng looking for pre-Christmas bargains of which there will be few!